WITH its newly-acquired world No 3 ranking at stake, Jamaica's senior netball team left the island yesterday for a three-Test series against England in the United Kingdom.
The Sunshine Girls, who moved up the rankings following their series win at the AFNA Championships in Trinidad and Tobago a few months ago, will play their old rivals in Birmingham on Friday, Sheffield on Monday and Manchester next Wednesday.
Coach Oberon Pitterson-Nattie told the Jamaica Observer before their departure from their Widcombe Road base yesterday that a team camp had borne fruit.
"We've seen lots of improvement each day out," Pitterson-Nattie said, adding that there was great anticipation for the series.
"It's always exciting playing against England. The atmosphere is very fierce and we have to keep our focus. I expect the others to face the same kind of atmosphere and most of them are accustomed to it. At the end of the day is just how well you perform and you want to perform well."
Pitterson-Nattie, a former star herself mentioned a few areas that still need to be worked on as the girls embark on their 10-day tour.
"There is still a lot of work to be done. It's about wanting it and want to go there and play defence. It's not a easy work and I'm trying to get them to understand that. You have to love the position and you have to be a work horse to be able to do well at the position. So hopefully they will be able to demonstrate that on the court."
The former national player knows that England will be eager to regain the No 3 spot held since the rankings were introduced in 2008 and recently lost.
"England is very wild to get back that third position, so I know it's gonna be tough and we really need to win the series and I think we can if we execute well," she said.
Twenty-year-old defender, Vangelee Williams, who will be on her first overseas Test tour, told the Observer she was looking forward to facing the home team.
"I'm just hoping to do my best. Going out there to work hard. It's going to be rough so just planning to work hard and stay focussed," she said.
"I've learnt to be humble and to work hard in whatever I want to do. Control myself better in my attitude, so I'm thankful. We play together as a unit. We have each other's back," she added
Nadine Bryan captains the squad with the returning Romelda Aiken being the most senior shooter in the line-up. Aiken has spent five seasons playing in the ANZ Championships in Australia and is familiar with many of the English players she will face in this series.
"I expect them to come and play hard. That's what they have been doing over the last year, but we have been training well and we just want to go out there and test ourselves at the international level again."
Jhanielle Fowler, Anna-Kay Griffiths, Malysha Kelly, Sasha-Gay Lynch, Patricia McCalla, Shantal Slater, Sabrina Spence, Kimone Tulloch, and Vanessa Walker make up the rest of the 12-member squad.
The management outfit includes technical assistant Janet Johnson Haughton; manager Andrea Anthony; sports psychologist Kadija Richards; physiotherapist Maureen Spence Campbell and video analyst Andrew Rose.
The team will be met in the United Kingdom by Jamaica Netball Association (JNA) president Marva Bernard, who is currently in South Africa on business.